Fabio Quartararo clocked the fastest practice time and set a new lap record at Sepang Friday ahead of the Malaysian MotoGP, a boost for the French rookie after he crashed out in Australia.
The 20-year-old Petronas Yamaha rider, whose race at Phillip Island last week ended at turn two when he collided with Danilo Petrucci, powered to a quickest lap of 1min 58.576sec in the afternoon session.
It was the second time he had broken the lap record — previously held by Dani Pedrosa — in the space of a day, after smashing it in the morning session.
Petronas Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli of Italy was second fastest, 0.534 behind the Frenchman.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, this year’s runner-up in the world standings and the winner at Sepang in 2016 and 17, was third fastest, 0.630 off the pace.
Quartararo said he was “really happy” to set a new lap record at the challenging Sepang circuit but cautioned there was still a long weekend of racing ahead.
“It’s only Friday,” he told reporters. “For sure in the qualifying, if it is good weather, we will need to beat it again to make the front row.”
The result will nevertheless lift the confidence of the up-and-coming rider, who finished second to already-crowned world champion Marc Marquez in Japan last month, after a double disaster in Australia.
As well as the collision in the main race, he had a dramatic smash in the first practice session which saw him thrown over his handlebars, although he escaped serious injury.
“Phillip Island was really tough, honestly the weekend did not go like we expected, two crashes. Of course we arrived here with not a lot of confidence,” he said.
Marquez, aiming for his second consecutive victory in Malaysia on Sunday and his 12th of the season, only managed to clock the sixth fastest lap Friday.
The Spaniard could cap a stellar season in Malaysia, the year’s penultimate race, by sealing the team championship for Repsol Honda, to add to the riders’ and constructors’ accolades.
He also needs to score just nine points in Malaysia — a seventh-placed finish or above — to top three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s highest ever tally of 383 in a season.
1. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha-SRT) 1min 58.576, 2. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.534, 3. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.630, 4. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.642, 5. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.708, 6. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.941, 7. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 0.970, 8. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1.017, 9. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1.131, 10. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda-LCR) 1.135
© Agence France-Presse